Newcastle United 2 Doncaster Rovers 1: match report
24 October 2009 06:50
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During his troubled time at Newcastle United, Graeme Souness said the club were only ever two games away from a crisis such are the expectations on Tyneside.
With unfortunate timing, caretaker manager Chris Hughton had one on his hands days after being offered the job full-time by owner Mike Ashley, at St James's Park on Saturday to witness a far from convincing Newcastle end a run of four games without a win and return to the top of the Championship thanks to a 90th minute winner from Kevin Nolan.
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So too was would-be owner Barry Moat, whose chances of taking over the club, it seems, have receded dramatically.
And the result came as a relief to an increasingly restless support, and also Hughton, expected to be confirmed as the club's permanent manager next week.
"I thought we deserved to win on the balance of the game, and the manner of the victory showed our character," said Hughton.
Hughton was deprived of Danny Simpson and Fabricio Coloccini on the eve of the game, and it was a mistake from Tamas Kadar, on his full league debut, which led to Rovers' opening goal, the defender's clearance being intercepted and passed to Billy Sharp, who crossed for Dean Shiels to tap into the net.
Alan Shearer's name was chanted in the minutes which followed the strike, and the mood on the terraces wasn't helped by more Doncaster pressure, though Nolan had a header stopped on the line as the half-time break neared. After Jonás Gutiérrez blazed a follow-up over the bar, a rainbow brightened the sky above a sodden St James's Park.
The outlook on the pitch, however, remained bleak, and Hughton's players left the field to boos. Carroll followed up Gutierrez's miss with another eight minutes into the second half.
Marlon Harewood, again a disappointment, was jeered off the pitch, and his replacement - Nile Ranger - was cheered, such was the desperation for something - anything - to happen. And it did.
Danny Guthrie clipped a ball into Carroll, and he atoned for his earlier miss by smashing the ball past Neil Sullivan.
However, Ryan Taylor conceded a penalty with 15 minutes left, but ex-Sunderland midfielder Martin Woods missed, and the drama, typically for United, wasn't over, with Zurab Khizanishvili being dismissed for grabbing Billy Sharp - involved in a confrontation with Kadar - by the throat.
Khizanishvili could now sit out Newcastle's next three games, something of a concern for Hughton, already without his two first-choice central defenders.
Hughton said: "I wouldn't rule out an appeal - I thought their player was the aggressor."
However, that's a problem for another day, as the result was all-important for a club whose promotion bid was faltering.
Newcastle United: Harper; R Taylor, Khizanishvili, Kadar, Enrique; Guthrie, Nolan, Butt, Gutiérrez (Tozer, 87); Harewood (Ranger, 60), Carroll.
Subs: Krul, Donaldson, Geremi, Ngo Baheng, Lovenkrands.
Sent off: Khizanishvili.
Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan; O'Connor, Shackell, Hird, Chambers; Coppinger (Hayter, 78), Gillett (Oster, 66), Fortune, Woods, Shiels; Sharp (Guy, 86). Subs: Woods, Spicer, Dumbuya, Heffernan.
Booked: Shiels, O'Connor, Sharp.
Referee: D Deadman (Cheshunt).